Gear Shakedown: Diapers + Scrubba

We are planning on using cloth diapers on the GDT this year with Toothless. Recently we purchased Osocozy flats from a local shop. We normally use prefolds but due to how thick they are, they can take a long time to air dry (and even dry in the drier!) so the general consensus is that flats can dry faster since they are much thinner.

We also purchased a Scrubba to test out to wash diapers on trail.

So we decided to test them out and document our thoughts here!

Diapers

To test the diapers out we have been using them for the past few weeks at home with Toothless.

Folds and our System

We have been folding them in an “origami fold” pattern as that positions the most amount of fabric in a way that can absorb messes. We have been alternating between using a Snappi and just tying the diapers in a knot in front to test out both methods.

We use a KaWaii Baby diaper cover that has already proven to us to keep moisture in. So that can also keep the diaper in place when a Snappi is not used. We have been using these covers since Toothless was born and they have worked very well for him with no leaks.

Generally speaking, the Snappi is nice but usually not needed. With the origami fold the fabric on the side is thin so it’s hard to use a Snappi without fearing it would marr his skin. For the most part, we have settled on tying the diapers rather than using a Snappi.

Effectiveness

The fabric itself is very soft and seems very comfortable on Toothless’ skin.

Each panel is about 97g and seems well made – clean seams and edges. There are no thin spots in the fabric.

For all types of messes the diapers have been very absorbent and have stayed in place. On maybe one or two occasions, the fabric has slipped out of the leg of a diaper cover on days Toothless is particularly active – a single layer is so thin it can slip between Toothless’ leg and the cover if not positioned quite right. For the most part this is avoidable but a good lesson to learn.

Dry Times

After hand washing the diapers with a Scrubba or Ziploc bag (see below) we wrung the water out and hung to dry. The diapers became fully dry, hanging inside a bathroom, on a humid day, within 8 hours. After 6 hours they were slightly damp but dry enough to use on a baby on occasion. This is much faster than the prefolds air dry and in a day with sun or wind I would expect this time to be much shorter.

Scrubba

The Scrubba was purchased so we can hand wash his diapers on trail. Normally we hand wash our underwear and socks on trail using a plastic bag, cold water and no soap. We work the clothes in the bag with water (either by manipulating the items or by shaking) and drain the grey water far away from a water source. With how dirty your socks can get, the water might need to be refreshed a few times before it comes out clear. We had seen plenty of recommendations for the Scrubba online and thought we would give it a try at home to see if it has a benefit over our existing methods.

Method and How to Use It

The Scrubba is just a roll top stuff sac with flexible dimples built into one side of the bag and a plastic valve to help vent air out of the bag. You wash clothes in it the same way you so a plastic bag – put clothes and water in and scrub them around. The dimples are supposed to work as a washboard help scrub clothes clean.

So far we have tested wet diapers with and without soap. When using soap we are using one drop of camp suds. When testing we are using cold water since warm water will not be available on trail.

Effectiveness

Wet Diapers

For wet diapers, I don’t see much of a benefit to using the Scrubba. The washboard is nice but also kind of tangles the diapers, which in turn makes the washboard ineffective. The air valve is OK but generally it seems like a weak point and I can usually get air out of a roll top reasonably well without it. There are a number of seams that worry me about failure points. A lot of water makes its way out of our Scrubba as I use it. I’m certain this isn’t coming out of the roll top so it’s either seeping through the fabric, leaking through the seams or leaking out of the valve. So while using it, my hands get very wet and cold, and potentially covered in dirty water.

The roll top is hard to use to drain or fill. It seems inevitable to accidentally dump the diapers on the ground when draining, or getting dirty water all over yourself when emptying.

When washing wet diapers they get clean with and without soap equally well. The Scrubba works best with more than one item. The size of the diapers is large and it’s hard to get the large, flat panel to open up within the Scrubba to get all surfaces scrubbed.

Solid Waste Diapers

For solid waste, the Scrubba does seem to get diapers clean enough but it’s much less pleasant to use than when washing wet diapers. The same problems exist with solid waste diapers as with wet diapers – the dirty water leaks out and gets on your hands (and with solid waste the smell of this water is very noticeable), it’s hard to actually use the washboard, you spend a lot of time scrubbing while kneeled down with your hands on the bag full of cold water.

When washing diapers with solid waste I had to refresh the water once while washing, so I filled the bag three times including rinsing. The diapers with solid waste came out of the Scrubba stained but clean enough to use. But I felt cheated since it was so much work and I got so dirty doing it.

Other Clothing

I also washed a sleep sack one day in the Scrubba because it got covered in spit up after we put a load of laundry in the washing machine. This garment was much easier to wash in the Scrubba; the washboard worked on it as intended and I could manipulate the sleep sack within the Scrubba enough to access all surfaces of it while washing. The sleep sack came out very clean.

We don’t plan on bringing a sleep sack like this hiking, but it was a good test for clothing other than diapers.

Control – Ziploc Bag

Normally we use a bag, either a Ziploc or similar, to wash our socks and underwear. As a control I also washed diapers with solid waste with a Ziploc to compare to the Scrubba. For this test I used one wet diaper and one with solid waste – a total of two diapers.

Since it’s just a freezer bag, it’s much smaller than the Scrubba. It seemed like we could fit a maximum of two diapers in it at a time.

When cleaning the diapers, I found it surprisingly easy to move the fabric around and work it against itself. I could scrub while standing up and working the bag with my hands. As we do when washing socks I could also shake the bag to agitate it. My hands stayed dry and the plastic is thin and flexible enough that I could get a grip on the diapers when draining the water so I wasn’t worried about dropping them on the ground.

This was overall a much cleaner experience than the Scrubba and much easier to do. I could wash my clothes fairly passively while doing something else (like looking at a map or talking) and don’t need to find a spot to kneel on the ground.

The volume of water is similar to how much goes in the Scrubba. I had to fill and drain about as much as the Scrubba.

The diapers came out as clean, if not cleaner, than with the Scrubba.

The nice thing about the Ziploc bags is they are cheap, easy to find to replace, and can double as a “wet bag” to carry dirty diapers during the day.

Overall the Ziploc bag seems to outperform the Scrubba for diapers – at least for flats. I doubt it would work as well as the Scrubba for larger clothing items. But those can be washed in town – we don’t wash Toothless’ clothes that frequently anyways.

Decisions

The diapers are definitely making the gear list. I’m very impressed with how they perform. On days when these might not fully dry, we may choose to carry a couple disposable diapers in our pack (to pack out once used) for a backup, but I think these are unlikely to be needed if we carry eno ugh flats to rotate out enough to have a dry one always on hand.

I don’t think we need to carry a Snappi. We can just tie the flats instead.

The Scrubba is nice for normal washing but not really for diapers – certainly not for flats.

We will definitely carry this in the car for road trips and car camping. For the GDT I think the Ziploc bag works just as well and is much less messy. So I’m fairly sure we will just wash diapers in the Ziploc. Then if the Ziploc gets damaged on trail we have plenty and can replace it. Also the Ziploc is much lighter – only about 12g.

We can wash most diapers with water only. But for larger messes we will carry a small dropper or bottle of camp suds and use one drop of soap for those messes to keep things clean.

One thought on “Gear Shakedown: Diapers + Scrubba

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